Patrick Chambers thought his players needed a short break from basketball.
So after Penn State’s triple-overtime loss to Indiana on Wednesday night, the coach gave his team a day off to rest physically and mentally.
When the Nittany Lions got back to work Friday, Chambers was focused on preparing them mentally ahead of their game against Rutgers. He doesn’t want his players feeling sorry for themselves.
“It’s going to be critical over the next 24 hours that I get that message through to them,” Chambers said on his teleconference Friday. “They know how hard Rutgers plays. I don’t think for a second that we will not be ready to play. But it’s the mental side of this game that scares me a little bit because of what happened at Indiana.”
Penn State (12-11, 4-6 Big Ten) takes on the Scarlet Knights (12-11, 1-9) at 1 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Chambers felt his team showed improvement in its 110-102 loss to Indiana. The Nittany Lions battled the Hoosiers, quickly erasing an early double-digit deficit in the second half to set up a back-and-forth finish.
They gave themselves a chance to win in the final minute, pulling ahead in the final minute after trailing for the previous three-plus minutes.
“We got timely stops, we got timely rebounds and we made the right plays down the stretch,” Chambers said. “It shows the guts that this team has.”
Penn State point guard Tony Carr gave his team a chance to win.
Carr spun past Indiana forward Juwan Morgan, finished through a foul and completed the three-point play to give his team a 71-69 lead with 38.5 seconds left.
Carr scored 23 points and dished out 14 assists in the triple-overtime loss, and teammate Lamar Stevens had a team-high 26 points and eight rebounds.
The freshman duo helped carry the Nittany Lions into overtime.
“I feel like their confidence is starting to filter through our entire team like we’re supposed to win this game,” Chambers said. “Get used to not being the underdogs anymore. We’re supposed to go out and compete and win this game at Indiana. That was their approach.”
Chambers is concerned with his team’s approach going into Saturday and said the Nittany Lions can’t look past Rutgers.
“If we don’t have the right mindset and we don’t have the right approach and we’re not going to compete for 40 minutes, well, the outcome’s not going to go Penn State’s way,” Chambers said. “That’s what I’m fighting right now internally.”
Notes: The Scarlets Knights are coming off an 83-63 loss to Iowa. Rutgers sits in last place in the league. Rutgers beat Nebraska 65-64 on Jan. 21 for its only conference win. ... Penn State beat Rutgers 60-47 on Jan. 1. Payton Banks scored 20 points and went 5 for 10 from 3-point range in the win. ... The Scarlet Knights rank last in the league in scoring (66.7 points per game).
Rutgers at Penn State
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
Radio: WQWK 1450